Monday, March 16, 2015

A New Centerfielder Emerges

The Minnesota Twins are now entering their second full week of  Spring Training games. With eleven games already under their belts, Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan have started to ship out some of the non-roster invites and minor league destined players. Thus far however, one surprising name has stuck.

Eddie Rosario.

If you've followed along at Off The Baggy, you know how high I am on the Twins prospect. The former second basemen has long distanced himself from the infield glove, and has successfully converted over to the outfield. While Aaron Hicks and Jordan Schafer have long been regarded as the cornerstones to the centerfield discussion, it appears that Rosario has thrown his hat into the ring.

Coming into spring training, it was assumed that Rosario's playing time would come in left field. With Byron Buxton slated to take over in centerfield for the foreseeable future, Rosario could be the option at one of the corners once Torii Hunter decides to hang them up. After playing 169 games in centerfield at the minor league level, it looks like Rosario could factor into the competition for the Twins Opening Day job.

Over eight games this spring, Rosario has gotten 19 at bats and turned it into a .263 average. He has contributed one double and two home runs while driving in four. Across his 19 at bats, he has only struck out twice, while he has yet to take a walk.

Stacking up against the competition, he trails Hicks as far as hitting is concerned. In six games, Hicks has 14 at bats and is hitting .357. With no home runs, but one triple, Hicks has drove in two. Schafer trails both players batting just .231 through 13 at bats. His one double is his lone extra base hit, and he too has driven in two runs.

Putting the numbers into context, it's good to remember that spring training is more about the process than the results. After all, Hicks was promoted in 2013 after an outstanding spring campaign, only to struggle mightily at the major league level. That being said, the production Rosario has shown, is no doubt the reason that Molitor and Ryan has been given pause. The substantiating factor for Rosario is that his track record shows the production isn't a mistake.

A .294 hitter across five minor league seasons, Rosario has flashed a decent amount of both speed and power in his game. Suffering a 50 game setback last season in the form of a recreational drug suspension, the Twins likely had to readjust their timeline with the exciting prospect. In 2015 however, all bets appear to be off.

With just over two weeks left in the spring training schedule, things will continue to get sorted out in the Twins outfield. Minnesota is no doubt hoping that Hicks takes steps forward and puts it together at the big league level this season. Of the bunch, Schafer is probably the safest bet for a roster inclusion, given that he would need to be designated to Rochester. Right now, it's probably safe to assume that the Twins are deciding between Rosario and Hicks for the starting role.

As a betting man, I'd put my money on Hicks going north. With the Twins wanting to see the production he showed at the minor league level following his demotion, he has likely secured one last chance. That being said, Rosario should stick around in camp for a while, and you can bet he'll be a quick phone call away. He still remains my pick to be the first positional prospect that debuts with the Twins in 2015.